Do you remember the wave of feminism and female empowerment in pop culture of the nineties? It was empowerment right? Not just clever marketing…
TLC’s 1994 classic hit "Creep," along with a lot of other nineties hits, was geared to appeal to a trend in female empowerment. The premise is that the persona in the song knows her man is cheating on her and, in order to accept the situation, cheats on him also. This was a premise band member Lisa Left Eye could not get on board with having said whilst interviewed;
‘…Is this the message we should be sending people… instead of telling her to cheat back, why don’t we tell her to just leave.’
This reactionary form of female empowerment, broadly to lower yourself to the man’s standards to be a ‘boss,’ was all the rage of the nineties. Predominantly songs written by men, packaged for women. However, these were not the only messages to come out of that era. In 1997, Erykah Badu was telling a man that wanted her that she’d ‘see him next life time’ because she was already in a relationship and Lauryn Hill was talking about ‘the sin that did Jezebel in.’ Intellectualism, alternative views and spiritualism was alive at the heart of mainstream culture. Female self love was woke!
However, despite winning critical acclaim, it is not these messages which have steered mainstream culture. Genuine, uplifting, empowering female messages have not stood the test of time. This would be fine if this evolution in voice in mainstream culture, where the woman holds herself to the male standard, had seen a rise in the counterpart. Tell me where in mainstream culture you hear men talking about respecting themselves and women. Some argue that female artists have appropriated the word "bitch," but however, they seem to have not changed the meaning.
Fast-forward to today and the considered empowered female voices are hard to find in the mainstream. Intellectualism is still alive and well, Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy is full of intertextuality. Cardi references the song and band this article is focused on; ‘Gave you TLC, you want to Creep and shit.’ And even at the person that inspired me to write this, ‘You’re going to turn me into Left Eye...’ referencing the headline news in 1994, when Left Eye set fire to her partner Andre Rison's tennis shoes in a bathtub, which ultimately spread to the mansion they shared and destroyed it…
And herein lays the problem.
As with too many of our woke female voices with strong messages, this is how Left Eye is now remembered; her name smeared for an act of apparent ‘hysteria.’ Her defining moment sold to us despite her claiming that Rison had beaten her after a night out and revealing that she did not have a lot of freedom within the relationship and that Rison abused her emotionally and physically. Soon after, Left Eye was taken from us, like so many before.
Now when you next need your nineties fix, (and you want to slow the vibe down, roll your hips and loosen up) I urge you to pause for a moment and remember to put the version of TLC’s hit "Creep" on with Left Eye’s rap included. In order to honor her legacy and spend a second question to whether you believe someone who fought so hard to include these lyrics in the song, deserves to be remembered in a way so many do.
‘Creepin' may cause hysterical behavior in the mind
Put your life into a bind
And in time make you victim to a passionate crime…
…Creepin' is the number one item on the chart
Rippin' families apart the leadin' cause of a broken heart
Injuries can be fatal may in fact of prenatal
HIV is often sleepin' in a creepin' cradle.’
Here’s hoping mainstream music culture can allow voices from true female bosses to portray their own message through music and, like so many before, their names are not smeared and degraded in way their male counterparts don’t even have to worry about.